Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spook Rock: Don't Pay The Ferryman (1983)

Scottish singer Chris DeBurgh made his first splash onto the American charts with the haunting "Don't Pay The Ferryman", from his album, "The Getaway".



DeBurgh would have only one more major hit, "Lady In Red", just a couple of years later, and that still gets played regularly on adult contemporary stations. "Don't Pay The Ferryman", with its gothic themes, is a great Halloween treat. Is it just me, or does DeBurgh look like he was auditioning for a remake of Dark Shadows in the original video?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weasels of the Week: Judge Paul Wooten & the Estate of Clare Menagh

We live in an excessively litigious society. That much has been a given for quite a while. But how low can a lawyer go?

In New York, the answer seems to be pretty low. By now, you're probably aware of the lawsuit filed against little Juliet Breitman, who was 3 months shy of her 5th birthday last year when she and a playmate, Jacob Kohn, also 4, were riding bicycles with training wheels on them when they struck an elderly woman, Clare Menagh, who suffered a fractured hip. Three months later, Mrs. Menagh passed away, but not before filing a suit against the toddlers and their parents, citing negligence. Her son, a lawyer by trade, has picked up the fight.

Making matters worse is Judge Paul Wooten. Citing a 1928 ruling, Wooten decreed that the suit can proceed, since the "defendants", if you will, were past the age of 4. Technically, 4 years, 9 months, in Ms. Breitman's case. These kids have just started school, and are being sued? How crazy is that?

The New York Daily News blasted Wooten in their op-ed page today, and appropriately so, giving him a "Knucklehead Award", which is sort of like the Dunce Caps I periodically hand out. Instead, Wooten, and the ambulance chaser he endorsed to go ahead with this suit, each earned a set of weasel ears. They're treating two kindergarteners like common thieves, even though they were under parental supervision when the incident occurred, and for what?

I've heard of cruel tricks on Halloween, but this is just flat wrong.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spook Rock: The Lurch (1965)

Oh, for the days when variety shows dotted the schedule in much the same way "reality" shows do today. Shindig was one of those shows that routinely featured stars of other ABC shows of the period. Shindig! also spawned some imitations, one of which was the syndicated Shivaree, which lasted just 1 season. In the Shivaree clip presented here, The Addams Family's Ted Cassidy, appearing in character, of course, performed his novelty hit, "The Lurch", named for his character on the show.



The only other time that Cassidy did any actual "singing", if you can call it that, was when he performed the theme to the animated series, Atom Ant, which also premiered in 1965.

Now, let's see how many radio stations can, ah, dig this up on Halloween......!

James MacArthur (1937-2010)

News has just come across the wires of the passing of actor James MacArthur at the age of 72.

MacArthur, the son of stage & screen legend Helen Hayes, is best remembered, of course, as Danny "Danno" Williams in the original Hawaii Five-0 (1968-80), but he also had a relatively modest film career of his own, with credits including "Kidnapped" & "Swiss Family Robinson". Perhaps the proudest moment of his career came MacArthur acted with his mother in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 in 1975. Miss Hayes had come off a short run in NBC's Snoop Sisters when she appeared on Five-0. MacArthur left the series 4 years later, prior to the start of the series' final season.

More than likely, there will be a tribute dedication graphic attached to a forthcoming episode of the current Five-0, in which Scott Caan, a second generation actor himself, plays Williams.

Rest in peace, James.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dunce Cap Award: Gene Steratore (& friends)

Steratore, of course, exhibited the stereotype of game officials that has been perpetuated for seemingly forever on Sunday when he ignored the obvious, and mis-ruled a fumble in favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went on to beat Miami as a result. Of course, the Dolphins have a gripe, but as of this writing, the NFL hasn't issued any sort of apology for this act of incompetence. The conspiracy theorists, and there are probably quite a few in Dolphin teal & white, will point to the fact that Steratore is a Pittsburgh native, so some home town bias might have been at work. That theory can't be proven or disproven, but at the end of the day, Steratore goofed, plain & simple.

Should the two teams meet in the playoffs, maybe the Dolphins should petition the league to have anyone but Steratore be the referee. Or, at the very least, have the arbiter take a lie detector test to prove he wasn't on the take. It's either that, or serve coffee instead of beer at the concessions that day......

Spook Rock: Dead Man's Party (1985)

From the Rodney Dangerfield comedy, "Back to School", Oingo Boingo serves up a devilishly hot rock track from the film's soundtrack. And speaking of devilish, that would describe singer Danny Elfman's facial expressions early in the clip, uploaded to YouTube by njstud1980:





I am not sure if this has been used in an actual horror movie. It probably has, but this is the only clip I could find.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When is a nut not a nut?

This week's "Weasel", Grim LeRogue, tells the New York Daily News in today's edition that his bull-rush onto the field at Yankee Stadium earlier this week wasn't as malicious as was originally reported. Instead, it was all a publicity stunt to sell a book, which, unlike our initial report, has nothing to do with 9/11. Instead, it's some self-help manual aimed at kids. Unsurprisingly, LeRogue is currently being treated at Bellevue, and now he's trying to distance himself from the more negative images of the incident, including a picture of Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez with a gun drawn on the picture and aimed at his head.

What Mr. LeRogue, nee John Rogan, fails to understand is that in these sensitive times, the media will assume the worst when they see something controversial and/or dangerous in content. No amount of self-spin-doctoring will completely reverse the initial press diagnosis, if you will, but let's give the guy a little credit for trying to be contrite.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Grim LeRogue

If it happened anyplace else during the baseball playoffs, it wouldn't get as much play in the papers as it does now. However, because it's 1) New York, and 2) the target was Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez, it becomes a bigger story than it has any right to be.

The man calling himself Grim LeRogue, born John Rogan, ran onto the field at Yankee Stadium on Monday, bent on attacking Rodriguez, simply because he wanted to make an impression on Rodriguez's actress-girlfriend, Cameron Diaz. It turns out that not only has LeRogue had a long standing hatred of Rodriguez for whatever reason (excessively rich might be a start), but he's also----feel free to cringe---a fan of Osama bin Laden, and is under the delusional impression that bin Laden, in turn, is in love with singer-actress Whitney Houston, and was bent on killing Houston's estranged husband, singer Bobby Brown. While we can't confirm anything related to bin Laden, we're sure LeRogue hasn't got a clue.

According to a New York Daily News article today, a friend of LeRogue's believes that this week's weasel did this stunt to call attention to a 9/11 conspiracy tome he is shopping. Just what we don't need. Another idiot buying into baseless conspiracy theories about the 9/11/01 terror attacks. He's being evaluated at Lincoln Hospital, according to the article. Ok, so Bellevue wasn't available. Maybe they ran out of beds.

What we also learned is that LeRogue is a high school dropout. That was his first mistake. While he might've gained a few fans for trying to kill Rodriguez, a pariah in baseball circles because of past admissions of use of performance enhancers, coupled with the excessively high salary he commands (courtesy of Scott Boras), LeRogue made his biggest mistake by making his play on a national stage. While he might not have been caught on camera, he did end up making headlines. For all the wrong reasons.

Heaven has a new disc jockey (Boom Boom Brannigan 1918-2010)

To listeners in upstate New York, he was their answer to national icons such as Dick Clark and Wolfman Jack. He was also one of the last old school disc jockeys still working into the present day. Today, the radio & television community in New York is mourning Joseph Motto, alias Boom Boom Brannigan, who passed away Wednesday at 82.

The only time I saw Brannigan in person, the impression I gleaned from seeing this man was that maybe, just maybe, he was separated at birth somehow from the late singer Roy Orbison. He had the same hair, not quite the same style sunglasses. It was at an outdoor concert in Albany sometime in the late 90's, if memory serves. I didn't get to talk to the man, but the fact that he was still active in radio in, at the time, his fifth decade in the business, was amazing.

Brannigan is best remembered for having spun the hits at WPTR & WABY in the 50's, 60's, & 70's, and even owned a station of his own during the 90's. Whomever said that James Brown was "the hardest working man in show business", apparently never met Boom Boom Brannigan.

Rest in peace, Boom Boom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Johnny Sheffield (1931-2010)

Fellow blogger Sam Wilson (Mondo 70, Think 3 Institute) just tipped me off to the news that Johnny Sheffield has passed away.

Sheffield, who debuted opposite Johnny Weismuller in "Tarzan Finds a Son", then went on to play another jungle hero, Bomba the Jungle Boy, succumbed to a heart attack on October 15 at the age of 79. Sheffield retired from acting after the Bomba series ended in the mid-50's.

They say celebrity deaths often come in threes, and this time, there was a particular theme, as Sam pointed out in responding to my earlier posting on Tom Bosley. We first lost a mother figure (Barbara Billingsley), then a father (Bosley), and now a child (Sheffield). Very strange.

Rest in peace, Johnny.

Tom Bosley (1927-2010)

Word has just gotten out on the passing of another cherished television favorite.

Veteran character actor Tom Bosley has passed away after a bout with heart failure at 83. After making the rounds as a guest star on several series during the 60's and early 70's, Bosley was cast as hardware salesman Howard Cunningham on Happy Days. The role had been originated by Harold Gould in a pilot episode on Love, American Style, but when Gould became unavailable due to scheduling conflicts, Bosley took his place, and the rest is history. After Happy Days ended its run, Bosley began taking on more dramatic parts, most notably as Sheriff Amos Tucker on Murder, She Wrote, before leaving for his first starring role in The Father Dowling Mysteries as a crime-solving priest.

Bosley also lent his voice to a number of animated series & specials, including the syndicated series Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home (1972), and the American version of The World of David the Gnome, which aired on Nickelodeon in the 80's and early 90's. Bosley also narrated the Rankin-Bass Christmas special, The Stingiest Man in Town, a sort-of adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". During his run on Happy Days, Bosley did a series of commercials for Glad trash bags.

Rest in peace, Tom. You'll be missed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bob McNamara (1934-2010)

Many of us who grew up in upstate New York during the 60's and 7o's became acquainted with sportswriter-turned-sportscaster par excellent Bob McNamara, who passed away over the weekend at 76.

McNamara started his career with the Knickerbocker News before shifting to television, and making his on-air debut with WTEN in 1966. My first memory of him, however, was after he'd moved to WRGB sometime in the early 70's. He was, in this writer's opinion, one of the first reporters to put an emphasis on high school sports in our area, showcasing the most outstanding players of the week during football & basketball season. McNamara moved to WNYT in the 80's, where he retired, albeit reluctantly, in 2001 after a public dust-up with a PBA volunteer at a regional tournament in Latham. The station suspended McNamara, who opted instead to retire rather than serve out the suspension and return to work, choosing to relocate to Florida. His career as a sports journalist was over.

Rest in peace, Bob. You've earned it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Carl Paladino

The Republican candidate for Governor stuck his foot in his mouth with some insensitive remarks directed at gays earlier this week, and while Paladino has back-tracked, predictably, reports have surfaced linking Paladino as the owner of at least one or two buildings that had housed gay bars. Whether Paladino realized or not to whom he was renting the spaces, maybe he should've checked his records before giving the NYC tabloids plenty of front page fodder for a couple of days.

Not surprisingly, Paladino has been characterized by the media as being homophobic, and his remarks may in fact come back to haunt him in next month's general election, because he may have completely alienated a key voting bloc. It's not the sort of thing that the Tea Party wants to have to deal with as November 2 approaches, but then, for the GOP in general, if Paladino is the best they can offer to challenge Andrew Cuomo, well, they might as well gift-wrap the keys to the executive mansion.

Last I knew, the last Buffalo businessman who tried to run for Governor, Tom Golisano, didn't make this kind of noise, and didn't have to. Paladino, though, is giving Buffalo a worse name than the Bills are in the NFL. Who'da thunk that was possible?

Two more for the reaper

The news has crossed my desk of two celebrity passings today.

First, and foremost, cherished TV housewife Barbara Billingsley (Leave it to Beaver) passed away at 94. Ms. Billingsley had not been seen much since the last TV revival of Beaver had ended some years back. She also won over a generation of children as the voice behind the nanny on Jim Henson's Muppet Babies during the 80's.

Speaking of the 80's, British actor Simon MacCorkindale gained a fair amount of fame here in the US starring in one of Glen Larsen's rare bombs, Manimal, which lasted one season on NBC. MacCorkindale would move on to shows such as Falcon Crest and Counterstrike, the latter a cable series that lasted about a year or two in the early 90's. MacCorkindale passed away at 57 after a bout with cancer.

Rest in peace, Barbara & Simon, you'll be missed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On DVD: "Black Magic", aka "Meeting at Midnight" (1944)

No one would ever think there would be any sort of supernatural content in a Charlie Chan mystery, but such was the case in 1944's "Black Magic", which, when it was aired on television, was retitled, "Meeting at Midnight", for reasons unknown.

Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), who had joined up with Team Chan by this time, has signed on as a butler for a wealthy couple who are holding a seance. We are also introduced to Chan's daughter, Frances (coincidentally played by an actress named Frances Chan), whom Dad refers to as the "Beauty of the Chan family". Oh, indeed. Anyway, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is called in when the police determine Frances is a suspect in a murder.

The Chans and Birmingham are in nearly every scene the rest of the way, and this movie flies by very quickly. Just to illustrate the absurdity of it all, Charlie pretends to be a psychic to joke around with the local police, and has some sort of gimmick strapped to his back. He ends up captured by the villain and, under hypnosis, is made to walk to the roof of a tall building, but Chan wakes up in time. Ultimately, he decides he's going to conduct a seance of his own to unmask the killer.

Let's just say that the killer isn't who you'd think it is, and leave it at that.

Not the best in the series, of course, and Toler had better outings than this one.

Edit, 5/3/17: Here is the complete film. Ignore the MGM/UA logos at the start.



Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On DVD: Tarzan & the Lost City (1996)

One advantage to having a day off from work is having time to play some DVDs that have collected dust on my shelf for way, way too long. And, then, there's the harsh reality that there were some bad investments sitting there.

Critics panned "Tarzan & the Lost City" when it came to theatres in 1996, and I wondered why. It just happened that I bought the DVD practically dirt cheap, which should've been a sign.

Anyway, our story has Tarzan (Casper Van Dien, "Starship Troopers"), just days away from marrying his lady love, Jane Porter (Jane March) when he gets a vision of an African village burned to the ground by treasure hunters trying to find the lost city of Opar. Jane's not digging the idea of Tarzan, aka John Clayton, aka Lord Greystoke, heading back to Africa, but she follows him anyway. Nigel Ravens may make claims of historical discoveries when it comes to seeking Opar, but it's the jewels and other riches that are luring him. You know, the usual lust & greed that get in the way of common sense.

But as Tarzan discovers, his time away from the jungle has made him soft in the eyes of some of the native tribesmen. Now, he has two challenges. One, to protect and preserve Opar, and, two, to restore his heroic reputation.

Now I begin to understand why the critics were all over this movie like a cheap suit. It's just that. Cheap. As Tarzan, Van Dien just doesn't fit the part. Looks too much like a yuppie. Small wonder that there wasn't a sequel.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's the trailer:



Rating: D.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Dioner Navarro

Two years ago, Dioner Navarro was the starting catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who at one time was a top prospect of the Yankees.

Today, however, with the Rays on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Texas Rangers, Navarro is nowhere to be found in the Rays' dugout. Navarro, in a clear case of "what have you done for us lately", was left off the Rays' ALDS roster in favor of Kelly Shoppach, whom the Rays acquired from Cleveland in the off-season, and rookie John Jaso. Navarro's not the only one who was left off the 25-man roster, but others who were, such as Willy Aybar, remained with the team, ready to be activated at a moment's notice in case of an injury or managerial decision. Aybar, in fact, was added to the roster, replacing comeback kid Rocco Baldelli after Wednesday's 5-1 loss.

It may seem like sour grapes, but Navarro should know better. His actions suggest that his next move may be to ask the Rays to either cut him or trade him, allowing him to ply his trade elsewhere next year. I'm sure the Yankees would love to have him back, only they already have a heir apparent to Jorge Posada in second year man Francisco Cervelli. The Rays will happily oblige, provided that, if they trade him, they get something of value in return. Letting him become a free agent does nothing for the Rays in the long term.

Navarro does get something out of this post-season, though. A set of weasel ears.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Representing in name only.....

This has been bothering me for a while now, and I feel it's time I addressed an issue ignored by the local press.

While my home city of Troy celebrated the Tri City Valleycats' rise to the NY-Penn League championship last month, there were two other teams that claim to call Troy home, but don't play their home games there. Instead, they're playing in Schenectady.

The Hellions of Troy, a women's roller derby team, had their home matches at Frear Park's ice rink last year. I'm not certain about attendance figures, but when fliers for the 2010 season began appearing, one glaring change caught my attention. Instead of returning to Frear Park for a 2nd season, the Hellions moved their home base all the way to Schenectady, specifically at Rollerama. What was wrong with staying in town and moving to the Knickerbocker Ice Arena in Lansingburgh, if there was a problem with Frear? Were they drawing enough people to Frear at all?

The one problem I could see with Frear was that it was off the bus line. By moving across town to Lansingburgh, it'd be a little easier for folks to take the bus, needing only to walk 3 blocks east to reach the arena.

A tougher pill to swallow has to do with the Troy Fighting Irish, a semi-pro football team that is playing for its league's championship this weekend, which, if they win, gives the city their 2nd championship in as many months. However, after playing their home games at Troy High the last couple of years, the Irish moved to Schenectady High this year.

In each case, there was no mention of why the teams moved to the Electric City, leaving only speculation as to the reasons for the moves. I would submit that during the summer months, attendance would be a problem, with most folks gravitating to Joe Bruno Stadium to see the Valleycats, but nothing was ever stated in the press that I could discern.

For the Hellions, there are no league titles to be had, that I know of, but for the Fighting Irish of the Collar City, a league championship rings a little hollow this year, because they're actually representing Troy in name only on the field. It would be in the best interests of the teams and the city to return to Troy in 2011. That's all that's really needed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time to put the haters in their place

Today, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Albert Snyder vs. Fred Phelps, the controversial pastor of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. At issue is whether or not Phelps' now-infamous protests at military funerals, including the one for Snyder's son, Matthew, fall under First Amendment guidelines protecting freedom of speech.

Phelps and his congregation have made headlines for their extremist, anti-gay views, claiming that God is punishing America for its tolerance of gays & lesbians. No, He's not. Matthew Snyder died serving his country, and, as his father alleges, Phelps and his group tarnished the funeral with their presence.

Marge Phelps, daughter of the pastor and lawyer for the church, has argued that the only way Albert Snyder even knew they were at the funeral was from reading news accounts. Albert Snyder is claiming that the Westboro congregation intentionally inflicted emotional stress. Who's right and who's wrong is now up to the Supreme Court to decide.

However, the actions of the Westboro congregation have been shameful, disrespectful, and irresponsible. Fred Phelps has come across as being irrational in his hatred of gays & lesbians. Nearly 35 years ago, Anita Bryant publicly railed against gays & lesbians, giving up an endorsement deal to do commercials for Florida orange juice, but she never went so far as to attend a total stranger's funeral to force her views on anyone else. Fred Phelps has crossed too many lines in trying to impose his viewpoint on others, and while some analysts believe that Phelps will get the benefit of the doubt, it will be the wrong decision.

A funeral is a solemn occasion. A crackpot with an axe to grind has no business being anywhere near it for any reason whatsoever. Phelps' habit of holding protests at military funerals, such as the one for Matthew Snyder, ruins the sanctity of the occasion, and it needs to be stopped. If Phelps wins, it's a win for anti-gay groups because they'll be given license to copy Phelps' tactics, only instead they'd probably trespass onto the cemetery just to get on the news. This is a case where the First Amendment cannot be used to justify the actions of a hate-mongering group that already is smearing the Bible's teachings with their rhetoric.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell (1941-2010)

You know his body of television work. A-Team. Greatest American Hero. Hunter. 21 Jump Street. Tenspeed & Brown Shoe. Renegade. Silk Stalkings. He's also been an author. But on Thursday, Stephen J. Cannell passed away at 69 after a bout with melanoma.

Cannell wrote for series like The Rockford Files, Adam-12, Black Sheep Squadron, & It Takes a Thief before branching out on his own in the 80's. Everyone knows the "logo" of his production company:





Cannell also acted occasionally on Renegade as a recurring villain. He turned to writing books when the wellspring of television hits dried up in the late 90's. In fact, he has a novel that will be released posthumously later this month.

Rest in peace, Stephen.

Weasel of the Week: Maverick Carter

Once a weasel, always a weasel.

With the NBA season a month away, Carter is alleging that racism had something to do with the negative criticism lobbied against his client, Miami Heat star LeBron James, in the aftermath of July's ESPN dog & pony show, The Decision. James is playing right along, of course, but at the same time, he's also still looking to move on and look ahead to the coming season.

Of course, one can blame Carter for the cameras turning up at a Heat practice at a military base earlier this week, too. He believes James has to be the focus point of any and all NBA coverage during the off-season as well as the coming regular season. Baloney. Carter is one of those parasitic hangers-on giving James a ton of bad advice, which threatens to ruin James' image & reputation beyond repair.

But as far as the cries of racism? Shallow, hollow, and without merit. As memory serves me, ESPN's own Michael Wilbon (Pardon the Interruption) has been one of James' detractors, post-Decision, and rightfully so. The fact that Wilbon, a respected African-American journalist-turned-TV pundit/analyst, joined the chorus, negates Carter's whining.

Since this is the 2nd time Carter has been given a set of weasel ears, we'll add a tail to go with it. It fits, of course.